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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. LA28, USOPC ink Fanatics deal for souvenirs and staff
2. USA Biathlon’s Max Cobb named Int’l Biathlon Union Secretary General
3. Infantino: very strict security coming at Qatar 2022
4. Three-year anniversary of Iran’s “Blue Girl” shame on Friday
5. Evenepoel and Roglic go 1-2 in La Vuelta time trial
More good news for the LA28 revenue side, as licensed merchandise giant Fanatics officially signs on as the retail partner for both the 2028 Olympic Games and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. U.S. Biathlon chief Max Cobb will be the new Secretary General of the International Biathlon Union, extending a growing American presence at International Federations. FIFA President Gianni Infantino, noting that fans of all 32 teams will be in proximity as never before at the compact Qatar ‘22 World Cup, promises zero tolerance for trouble makers. The three-year anniversary of the tragic death of Iranian football fan – “Blue Girl” – Sahar Khodayari, caused by her arrest while trying to watch her favorite team, was remembered by women fans allowed to attend a domestic-league match for the first time in more than 40 years. Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel extended his lead at the Vuelta a Espana over defending champ Primoz Roglic of Slovenia in the Stage 10 time trial, but the mountain stages beckon.
LA28, USOPC ink Fanatics deal for souvenirs and staff
Tuesday’s announcement was no surprise:
“Today, LA28 and Team USA announced a comprehensive merchandise and omnichannel retail agreement with digital sports platform, Fanatics, to elevate the fan shopping experience before, during, and after the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
After all, the limited, existing LA28 merchandise program was already being handled by Fanatics and organizing committee chair Casey Wasserman had told the Los Angeles City Council last December that Fanatics was already deeply financially committed to the success of the 2028 Games.
And the scope of the agreement includes in-person retail spaces in addition to online shopping:
“A key aspect of the agreement is creating physical retail spaces with Fanatics operating the suite of on-site shopping locations within the LA28 Games footprint, as well as other locations throughout Los Angeles. The significant undertaking will work across many Games venues and stadiums with multiple touchpoints and experiences at each.”
But it was the next-to-last sentence which was an eye-opener:
“For the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Fanatics will outfit the tens of thousands of volunteers.”
Most often, an apparel company such as adidas, ASICS or Nike has been the primary supplier of uniforms for officials, staff and volunteers. Fanatics, with its wide sourcing and manufacturing capabilities, is certainly capable of outfitting LA28 volunteers, but no mention of officials or staff was included, so a separate program may be under consideration.
No financial terms of the agreement were disclosed and Fanatics was described as the “official retail partner” of LA28 and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (Fanatics has been the USOPC’s online retail vendor since 2009).
This is more good news on the marketing side for LA28 and another direct-to-consumer company involved with the Games, along with Delta Airlines and The Hershey Company. LA28 is also sponsored by entertainment giant Comcast (primarily NBC), professional services firm Deloitte and software provider Salesforce.
An LA28 agreement has long been expected with Nike; some, but not all, of the existing merchandise offered by Fanatics is Nike-branded and no competitive makers are shown to be used. The USOPC has used Ralph Lauren as its parade uniform supplier for its Olympic teams.
U.S. Biathlon’s Max Cobb named Int’l Biathlon Union
Until fairly recently, almost no Americans were serving as Presidents or chief executives of International Federations, but that is slowly changing. On Tuesday, the International Biathlon Union ended a lengthy search and named American Max Cobb as its new Secretary General.
Cobb, 57, is no stranger to the biathlon community. He joined U.S. Biathlon as a race director in 1989, was an assistant coach and manager of the national team, became the federation’s program director in 1994, was named Executive Director in 2006 and has been in charge of the federation ever since.
At the international level, he was the head of the IBU’s Technical Committee and then elected to the IBU Executive Board in 2016 (his term will end in October). He will move to Salzburg (AUT) to start in October.
Cobb also served as the Vice Chair and then Chair of the U.S. National Governing Bodies Council, working with the USOPC on the complex issues that face individual sports within the U.S. Olympic Movement. At the IBU, he will be working with 60 national federations.
While there is only one American serving as an International Federation President – David Haggerty for the International Tennis Association – Cobb becomes the second American chief executive of a winter-sport federation, after Dwight Bell, Secretary-General of the Federation Internationale de Luge (FIL).
Further, Americans serving as summer federation Secretaries-General include Brent Nowicki for FINA (aquatics), Debbie Gawrych for sport climbing (IFSC) and Bob Fasulo for the International Surfing Association. The list is getting longer.
Infantino: very strict security coming at Qatar 2022
You have been warned.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino (SUI) made clear the view of the federation and the organizing committee for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar concerning security. Have a good time, and that’s all.
Speaking at a ceremony dedicating a new football field in San Jose, Costa Rica on the fringes of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup that concluded over the weekend:
“All fans around the world are welcome to celebrate, party, watch the matches.
“But if anyone wants to come and start a fight or whatever, obviously they won’t be welcome and we’re all going to be very strict, because everyone’s safety is the most important thing.
“We’re going to have fans from all countries in the same city, not just those from both countries playing a game one day, but everyone will be there all the time. There are many issues that need to be considered in terms of security, accommodation, transportation and every possible and imaginable effort is made to make it a party for everyone. For football fans, it will be a unique experience.”
Infantino made an important point, in that the 2022 World Cup stadia are so close together that fans of all 32 teams will see each other consistently during the group stage. This kind of closeness is a first and might be the last for quite a while. It all starts on 20 November.
Three-year anniversary of Iran’s “Blue Girl” shame on Friday
Last Thursday (25th), about 500 Iranian women were allowed – reportedly for the first time since 1979 – to attend a domestic-league soccer match as spectators to the Esteghlal FC vs. Sanat Mes Kerman FC match at Tehran’s 78,226-seat Azadi Stadium.
It came almost three years to be day after the death of “Blue Girl,” an incident almost too awful to be true. But it happened.
In March of 2019, Sahar Khodayari – known as “Blue Girl” on social media for her affection for the Esteghlal club, whose primary color is blue – tried attend a home match dressed as a man since women were barred under an Islamic edict. She was arrested; during a hearing on 2 September, she was told that she was subject to a six-month jail sentence. Upon leaving the court, she poured gasoline on herself, lit a match and was burned on over 90% of her body. She died on 9 September at age 29.
The “Blue Girl” movement drew worldwide attention and FIFA demanded that Iran make some accommodation for women to attend international matches, which are under FIFA’s purview. Women were allowed to attend – in very small numbers – an Iran-Lebanon match in October 2019.
But a report on the International Sports Journalists Association (AIPS) Web site noted that women were again denied entry for an Iran-Lebanon match in March 2022, despite having bought 2,000 of the 12,500 available tickets! This drew a threat of suspension of FIFA.
At the Esteghlal match on the 25th, the women attending chanted “Blue Girl” as a tribute to Khodayari’s actions, and the team’s Web site posted a welcome message picturing the women fans and the caption, “We are happy you are present at Azadi Stadium today”
This is progress, but slow and grudging. But to its credit, FIFA is watching and so are media inside and outside of Iran.
Evenepoel and Roglic go 1-2 in La Vuelta time trial
Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel came into the 2022 La Vuelta a Espana as the 2019 European time trial champion and this year’s Belgian time trial national champ, so he was ready for Tuesday’s flat, 30.9 km ride from Elche to Alicante.
Already the race leader, he dominated from the final starting position, posting the fastest time of the day (33:18), 48 seconds faster than three-time defending champ Primoz Roglic (SLO), who finished second (34:06) and a full minute up on France’s Remi Cavagna.
Going into tomorrow’s 11th stage (out of 21), Evenepoel now leads Roglic by 2:41 and Enric Mas (ESP) by 3:03, but with five major climbing stages remaining, beginning on Saturday and Sunday. The 22-year-old Belgian is the leader, but not quite yet the favorite to win.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Athletics ● Consistent headwinds in the sprints led to mostly modest performances in Luzern (SUI) on Tuesday, but American sprint star Sha’Carri Richardson appeared for the first time since the U.S. National Championships and scored an 11.29-11.30 win over Jamaican icon Elaine Thompson-Herah in the women’s 100 m (wind: -2.0 m/s).
American Tia Jones won the 100 m hurdles over Olympic champ Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (PUR), 12.78 to 12.86 (wind -2.4). Olympic champ Dalilah Muhammad of the U.S. won the 400 m hurdles in 54.57.
Marvin Bracy (USA) won the men’s 100 m in 10.17 (-1.7) and Bryce Deadmon (USA) won the 400 m over world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk (RSA), 45.11-45.19. Ryan Crouser of the U.S. won the men’s shot at a modest – for him – 22.08 m (72-5 1/4).
In Rovereto (ITA), TeeTee Terry (USA) won the women’s 100 m in 11.02 (+0.3), and Americans Allie Wilson and Olivia Baker were 1-2 in the women’s 800 m in 1:58.53 and 1:58.83. Michael Cherry of the U.S. won the men’s 400 m in 45.27 and Britain’s Kyle Langford won in a lifetime best of 1:44.49.
Two-time Olympic relay gold medalist and eight-time World Championships gold medalist – all on relays – Natasha Hastings announced her retirement on Monday in an essay on The Players’ Tribune:
“I’m so much more than just someone who runs fast. And knowing that — realizing it with absolute certainty — is why making this decision to retire from the sport that’s been a huge part of my life since I was nine … it wasn’t really something that I agonized over.
“I’m 36 now — a mom, a graduate student. It’s time to move on. I feel it in my heart.
“I’m good with it.
“And all that passion that I had for running? The drive, the focus, the determination? I’ve found a new place to put it all. And I couldn’t be more excited for what’s next.
“Right now I’m doing my master’s in clinical mental health, and after I earn my degree my plan is to become a psychologist.”
A national-class runner by 2005 and a world-class 400 m star with a best of 49.84 from 2007, she was the 2013 U.S. national champ (49.94 in Des Moines). She finished fourth at the Rio 2016 Games in the women’s 400 m, but won golds on the women’s 4×400 m relay teams at Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016, plus World Champs 4×400 m golds in 2007-09-11-13-17 and indoors in 2010-14-16.
She will be remembered for her toughness, perseverance and ultimate reliability with a baton in her hand. Her best of 49.84 ranks her equal-20th all-time U.S.
● Basketball ● The U.S. men’s national team cruised past Colombia in Barranquilla, 95-77, in the last of a two-game window in the Americas Qualifying tournament for the FIBA 2023 World Cup.
The American men had a 45-32 halftime lead that expanded in the second half. Guard John Jenkins again led the U.S. in scoring with 26 points on 8-14 on three-pointers. Sub guard Langston Galloway and forward DaQuan Jeffries had 14 points each.
The U.S. is now 7-1 and leading Group F over Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay, all 5-3. There are four more games in group play, with the next two games coming on 11-14 November.
● Chess ● You can forget about chess making into the Olympic Games any time soon, said former World Champion Anatoly Karpov (RUS). In a TASS interview, he explained:
“I think that in our lifetime, mind sports will not be included in the program of the Olympic Games. We missed this chance in the ‘90s: the former head of the International Olympic Committee [Juan Antonio] Samaranch [ESP] supported us, there were even forms of interaction.
“We submitted a joint application with the Draughts and Bridge federations to include mind sports in the program of the Winter Games, since there was a break of 4-5 hours between the morning and evening competitions, when the fans had nothing to do with themselves.
“At first, [former FIDE President] Kirsan Ilyumzhinov [RUS] was very active, but then a scandal erupted in the IOC, and those who supported us were removed from their posts. Now there is no chance to enter the Games program, but work can be done.”
In the current situation, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) re-elected Russian Arkady Dvorkovich as President, but the national chess teams of Russia and Belarus are barred from team competitions. Grandmasters are allowed to play in individual tournaments in a neutral status. Said Karpov:
“Dvorkovich told me about the pressure and that FIDE had to follow the recommendations of the IOC, but the recommendation is not an order. We hope that gradually these outrages will be removed from the chess world and chess players will be able to play in peace. The only time for political reasons that they suspended the membership of the South African federation, They had separate chess clubs for blacks and whites, but the South Africans could easily play under their own flag in individual competitions; a year later they corrected themselves. Those decisions that were made this year in chess cannot be understood by a normal person.”
● Football ● In a rematch of the 2018 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup final, Spain defeated Japan, 3-1, to win its first tournament title, in San Jose, Costa Rica. Although the result was reversed from four years ago, the score was identical!
Spain dominated from the start and had a 3-0 lead at half after goals by Inma Gabarro (12th minute) and two from Salma Paralluelo, in the 22nd minute and in the 27th on a penalty. Japan scored the only second-half goal, in the 47th minute, by Suzu Amano.
Brazil won its first medal since 2006 with a 4-1 win over the Netherlands, in the third-place game. The U.S. women were eliminated in the group stage.
● Ice Hockey ● At the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Denmark, the U.S. concluded a dominant group stage, winning its third and fourth games with a 9-0 whitewash of Switzerland and a 5-2 win over Canada, thanks to three goals in the final period.
The U.S. out-scored its four opponents by 30-3 (vs. 19-7 for 3-1 Canada) and rolls into the playoffs as the top seed. The Americans will play Hungary (1-3 with one overtime loss) on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
● Swimming ● The head of the Russian Swimming Federation, four-time Olympic gold medalist Vladimir Salnikov, told the TASS news agency that the current ban on Russian swimmers is wholly political:
“We have competitions that have been canceled – they have not been canceled forever – they are conditionally in the stage of postponement: the European Championship, and the World Cup. It is conditionally determined that they are postponed for some remote period.
“Answering the question ‘when,’ this is probably more of a political question. Now I will not answer it, because everyone expects some events, probably, improving the general atmosphere associated with the reaction of unfriendly countries, first of all. But it sits in everyone’s head that it’s time to do this. We won’t miss it [the decision], but we are waiting.”
Three-time U.S. Olympic relay gold medalist Blake Pieroni, 26, best known as a Freestyle sprinter, announced his retirement from competitive swimming on Instagram last week:
“Big life update for everyone, I am retiring from the sport of swimming, I have loved all my years in the sport, the friends I’ve met and the doors that swimming has opened for me. However, I don’t feel a burning passion to be the very best that I can be. My lifetime goal from when I was young watching @m_phelps00 in Beijing was always to be olympian and I achieved that twice. Thank you to everyone who cheered for me and sent me encouraging messages. I still enjoy the sport and I hope to be around in some capacity in the future.”
He swam in the heats of the Rio 2016 men’s 4×100 m Free relay, was on the second leg of the winning Tokyo 2020 men’s 4×100 m Free relay and in the heats of the men’s 4×100 m Medley relay (which the U.S. eventually won). He also swam in the prelims of the men’s 4×200 m Free relay, but did not win a medal as the U.S. finished fourth in the final.
Pieroni also won six Worlds relay medals (4-0-2) in 2017 and 2019 and finishes with impressive Freestyle bests of 22.03 (50 m), 47.87 (100 m), 1:45.93 (200 m) and 3:53.98 (400 m).
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